FAMILY

Back to school: a few ideas to streamline your dinner routine

by Maude Goyer, alias Maman 24/7

In the summer, I spend my 5 and 7 sipping rosé, listening to my favourite tunes and chatting with the neighbours. In September, however, my 5 à 7 is a mix of rushing back home, getting the kids to do their homework and getting dinner on the table… let’s just say it’s a brutal change!

ideas to streamline your dinner routine  “How do they do it?” I ask myself that question whenever I see other parents in my situation at this (ungodly) hour – struggling to keep it together as they get back home after a (too) busy day with hungry kids waiting at home to finish their homework after eating their dinner (which I have yet to make, of course.)

Obviously, I try not ask myself “Alright, what are we eating?” right as I open the fridge at 5:30. Few parents (read: no parent) will tell you that’s a good idea. Organizing and planning meals is a necessity. That’s where the term “mental burden” takes all of its meaning, as parents have no choice but to plan and “see things coming” in order to make sure everything goes smoothly for the whole family.

What will we eat tomorrow? What’s going in the lunchbox? Is there any milk left? Did the kids eat any green veggies yesterday? Did we get our weekly serving of fish? Will I have time to make muffins? These questions run in an endless loop in my mind. I’m certainly not the only one: according to a recent survey, two out of three Quebec parents believe that dealing with professional obligations and family responsibilities is a major source of stress.

As back to school season approaches, I asked a few parents with children under the age of 12 for advice. Why not take inspiration from them to make dinnertime routine easier? Read on for their tips!

Sunday

 “My partner goes grocery shopping on weekends. He buys everything we need, following a planned set of menus and taking into consideration stores’ weekly specials and what we already have in our pantry, fridge and freezer. Then, on Sunday, we prepare a bunch of meals, some snacks and even a dessert.” - Julie

“I make a big grocery shopping trip on Sunday. I prepare at least one meal and chop all of the fresh fruit and veggies I bought.” - Natacha

Participation and implication

“Everybody contributes to meal prep! We cook together as a family – even my two-year old daughter helps out. She stirs batters, cracks eggs, chops mushrooms, etc.” - Anouk

 “My mother-in-law was looking for a new project or activity, so we decided to dedicate a portion of our grocery budget to paying her to prepare meals for us. Everybody wins!” - Karine

The right tools

 “We cook on weekends and store meals in our three freezers.” - Sophie

 “Dinner is always ready the night before. The night of, all that’s left to do is heat it up in the oven or the microwave!”  - Cynthia

 “I use the slow cooker at least once a week, especially on nights where I know that extracurriculars, classes, activities or a heavy homework load will have us pressed for time.” - Maude

“I make a lot of preserves.” - Rachel

Planning and simplicity

 “My neighbourhood’s collective kitchen is a lifesaver! We prepare a lot of meals together and then divide the servings. Not only do I save time and money, I also get to meet other busy moms who share my busy schedule.” - Annie

 “We have three daughters who play three different sports, so we’re all about convenience. Pasta, ready-made meals from the grocery store… we love it all! Sometimes, we end up eating sandwiches or even a bowl of cereal. Hey, a little cereal never hurt anyone!” - Manon

Ready-made meals and meal kits

 “Once or twice a week, I get meals from a caterer. It removes a huge weight from my shoulders and makes me a lot more patient. That way, I can be more available come homework time.” - Geneviève

 “I’m so much less stressed since I’ve started getting two ready-to-cook meals a week delivered to my door! Everything is right there in the box - all that’s left for me to is cook. Plus, there are always leftovers to eat for lunch the next day.” - Julie   

 

Journalist Maude Goyer has always been interested by the various matters surrounding family and motherhood. Freelancer for many magazines (Coup de Pouce, Vero, Planet F, Chatelaine, Enfants Quebec, etc.), radio and tv shows, her Facebook page reaches a committed community. She is also - and above all! – the mom of two children aged 8 and 11 years old.